Knuckles Episode 1-3 Review: An Underrated Good Time

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Ben Hazell
| May 7, 2024
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Knuckles is a spin-off series from the Sonic the Hedgehog movie universe airing on the Paramount Plus streaming service. Focusing on the red echidna debuting in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Knuckles is given a mission to train minor comedy relief character Wade Whipple into becoming a warrior just like him. However, the story begins to show a much deeper narrative as it goes on. We’ll discuss episodes 1, 2, and 3 of the series and its strengths and weaknesses.

Episode 1

The first episode is a really strong first outing. We see Sonic, Tails and Knuckles coming to terms with their new life on Earth, with Knuckles struggling to adapt to a peaceful life unlike his friends. After Sonic fails to persuade him to feel more at ease, Knuckles’ spiritual ancestor arrives to tell him to turn a certain human into a warrior “worthy of the Echidna name.” Idris Elba is amazing in this role and gives Knuckles a powerful aura, even during comedic moments.

Knuckles’ idea of “home”.

The human is Wade Whipple, the town’s bumbling sheriff character from the movies, played by Adam Pally. His goal is to win a bowling tournament, but he has issues with being intimidated by his opponents. Upon meeting with Wade, Knuckles starts to give his all, encouraging Wade to be a stronger person. And Wade starts to rub off on Knuckles with his carefree and fun attitude. It’s at this point I began to realize the show is a road trip type deal. Wade is so unthreatening that Knuckles can become more at ease, and Wade is inspired by Knuckles, who shows no fear in the face of danger.

This is Wade, I liked Wade. He’s got a real down to Earth charm to him.

Then, the villains appear. Two “G.U.N.” agents working with a shady arms dealer to kidnap Knuckles for his power. I do love that this crazy special ops group exists now and has tabs on all of the three alien Sonic characters. They ambush Knuckles and Wade at a bowling alley with tech powered by scavenged quills from Knuckles. At this point, we get to the worst part of the episode, where Agent Mason, played by Kid Cudi, tries to imitate one of the most memorable lines from Sonic the Hedgehog 2, flubs it, then gets absolutely destroyed in combat. It just really leaves a mental disgust in my brain for this character to quote Knuckles despite not being involved at the time of the movie.

The fight scene is quite well done, with impressive choreography and special effects. But they do win in the end. The only reason they capture Knuckles is a cheap teleport while Knuckles is gloating over his victory. I love this. Knuckles’ main flaw is his gullibility.  He let his guard down, and it led to this, which is absolutely on point. This leaves Wade having a panic attack as the only one who can save Knuckles.

The bowling aesthetic and low lighting ambience really does add to this scene.

Episode 1 is probably the strongest of the first three episodes, possibly the whole show. It introduces comic villains, lays down backstory for the universe, establishes that Sonic, Tails and Knuckles are considered heroes who saved the world, and at the same time establishes just how revered the series’ main antagonist, Robotnik, was. Knuckles and Wade are both given some strong character, with it being clear that Knuckles’ ghost dad character is manipulating his ego to put him on a path that will make him more content with his new life. These two characters need each other to grow and become better. The show does a brilliant job of paving the way for the story ahead.

Episode 2

In this episode, we get the biggest reference to Sonic lore so far with the “Ice Cap” resort. Where the bad guys are holding Knuckles. There’s one of those “Are we sure this is for kids?” moments where Knuckles gleefully recounts to the villains how many of their bones he will break once he escapes. One of the villains, Agent Willoughby, played by Ellie Taylor, gets some characterization with Knuckles. Willoughby clearly has massive insecurity issues, claiming she’s far, far worse than Robotnik and basically taunting an animal in a cage. Knuckles, however, is unimpressed. I found this scene very funny. It was a cartoony version of Hannibal Lecter taunting his foes from captivity.

Knuckles proves he is too hard headed to be intimidated even while caged up.

Wade gets a fantasy flashback where he pretends to be James Bond, going through an elaborate and extensive escape attempt, which fails immediately when he sets off his fireworks at the front door. It leads him to an encounter with Kid Cudi, who beats him up and then takes a phone call from his mother during the one-sided punch-up. It’s funny but more because it’s absurd than anything.

Wade’s James Bond fantasy pushes the limits on being cheesy.

Wade comes through and lucks out on freeing Knuckles. Then they escape with Knuckles carrying Wade to safety by gliding off a mountain. This gliding scene is perfect for fans of the game. Knuckles’ glide is an iconic part of his mobility, and to see it in live-action is fantastic since it wasn’t shown in the movie.

After this, we get some of the best dialogue in this show. Knuckles completely shut down Wade’s escape attempt as the fluke it was. But Wade counters by saying that even if it was a fluke, it was still a win because some days you just have to take a win where you can get it. Knuckles accepts this and begins to learn more humility, while Wade accepts that it wasn’t the perfect plan. It’s kind of beautiful how these two bond over failures. Also, Wade has a bounty put on his head for freeing Knuckles. Whoops!

Knuckles’ gliding gives the same energy as a Harry Potter flying segment.

We can really start to see how the show, at its core, wants to teach how it’s okay to mess up because your loved ones can still pull you through the bad times. I’ve seen people complain about how the show doesn’t have enough Knuckles and focuses on Wade for a lot of the run time, but I don’t think this show would work without that dynamic.

Episode 3

This episode was mentally taxing. If only for the sheer weirdness of what transpires. I honestly believe this episode to be like a car crash that you have to watch to understand what’s happening.

So, after the previous episode, Wade decides to hide at his mother’s house, and it turns out he hasn’t visited in two and a half years. And we quickly seem to understand why. Wade’s sister appears, who works for the FBI but has the manner and charm of the evil babysitter from the Fairly Odd Parents. After Wade’s mother sees Knuckles, she faints because, as you know, he’s a small red alien to most people in this universe. I’m glad that hasn’t been forgotten about. But upon waking, she and Knuckles have a good rapport, and Knuckles treats her with high respect as the “Chief of the Whipple clan,” which is an endearing character trait for him. My man Knux has some really good manners.

Knuckles gets scanned for weapons and somehow avoids saying “I am the weapon”. Good for him.

She invites him to stay for Shabbat, a traditional Jewish holiday. Which, according to Wade, is always a complete disaster. It becomes clear that this is because their family cannot actually get along with each other because his sister is what I can only describe as “The worst person ever.” Constantly lying, belittling Wade, disrespecting her mother and flashing her FBI badge everywhere like it makes her superior. We can see Wade’s attempts to stand up for himself are not effective, making it understandable why he has an issue with people intimidating him.

Knuckles, however, spends his time during this meal bonding with Wade’s mother, talking about his past with her drawing parallels to the plight of the Jewish people. This is concerning when you consider that would make the owls, the show’s equivalent of the bad guys from World War 2, and Sonics Guardian, who was portrayed as a good and caring parental figure, has now been branded one by the show. Did I mention that this is a kid’s show?

Dinner breaks down into family squabbles. At which point the bounty hunters attack! Aiming to bring in Wade for his $100’000 reward? Who is paying for this? I do not know, but I could swear they were after Knuckles. I guess it’s just too difficult to put a price on someone who shouldn’t exist. The family trys to fend them off while Knuckles is shown to effortlessly deal with them. There’s an inventive sequence where Wade’s mom begs Knuckles to defend the Shabbat candles as they need to go out naturally for the holiday. So, they both engage the bounty hunters while pushing them away from the candles. The cinematography here was impressive, to be honest. I also enjoyed seeing Wade’s sister being incredibly ineffective, trying to flash her badge and getting nothing in return. We see Wade taunt a villain, seeing Knuckles about to arrive. It’s a nice little bit of character growth sharing a tiny bit of Knuckles’ ego.

Before…
and After.

This episode drew a lot of concerning parallels between the world of Sonic the Hedgehog and religion, which is an inventive path to take but not one that I would have done myself. The funniness of Knuckles being a good guest while surrounded by the dumpster fire, which is Wade’s family, was a pretty good laugh, and him joyfully beating up the bounty hunters was brilliant! The ending moral, where the family all stick together against the intruders and the mother says it was the best one they’ve ever had, was touching. Knuckles may just have found the benefits of other tribes and embracing their customs. Which is good for the overall narrative of this show, which is about adapting to an unfamiliar world. Wade proves himself an anchor to this, and in my opinion, it makes him an anchor that Knuckles needs.

Knuckles taunts in the middle of a fight. Love these tiny character moments.

I haven’t watched episodes 4, 5 and 6 at the time of writing this. But so far, I feel this show has a good framework, lovable characters, really dislikeable characters when they’re meant to be, and some interesting references to Sonic media. It takes the essence of the movies and translates them into a TV series quite effectively. While I personally found the addition of humans in the movies a waste of screen time, I do not feel the same with Wade and his extended family. Wade provides an invaluable window into humanity for Knuckles, and I love to see their bond affect them both in positive ways. While the humor in the series may be a little hit-and-miss, the overall narrative is filled with an understanding of Knuckles as a character and what he would need to embrace a life without combat. I also feel the villains embody that goofy Saturday morning cartoon evil that we’ve been missing in Sonic media. They have the tools to be evil but seem reckless and prone to failure. We need that.

Tell me what you thought of everything in the comments. It’s well worth watching even as just a couple of hours of free time on a night one day. I found it a good use of my time, and I feel you will, too.

These credits are so innocent and filled with nostalgia, I love them.

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